When used correctly, symbolism and irony can be very effective. Edwin Arlington Robinson is a master of symbolism, and uses irony like no poet before or after him could even conceive to. In Mr. Flood's Party Robinson uses symbolism to forewarn his readers of Mr. Flood's inevitable death. The irony saturates the poem and sets the reader up for an unexpectedly non-ironic conclusion. Robinson relies on irony and symbolism to better illustrate the old man drinking and talking to himself as he walks home from Tilbury Town on an autumn night.
Edwin Arlington Robinson was born in Head Tide, Maine, on Dec. 22, 1869. He grew up in nearby Gardiner, which became the basis for the Tilbury Town of his poems. Some historians say that for many months after his birth his parents called him "the baby" because his parents had not wanted to have a boy. The name Edwin was pulled from a hat by a stranger at the local tavern who happened to live in Arlington, Massachusetts. Robinson hated his name, for it signified to him that he was unwanted by his parents and unimportant to them as well. Robinson described his childhood as stark and unhappy; he once wrote in a letter that he remembered wondering why he had been born at the age of six. After high school, Robinson spent two years studying at Harvard University as a special student and his first poems were published in the Harvard Advocate. Robinson privately printed and released his first volume of poetry, The Torrent and the Night Before, in 1896 at his own expense; this collection was extensively revised and published in 1897 as The Children of the Night. Unable to make a living by writing, he got a job as an inspector for the New York City subway system. In 1902 he published Captain Craig and Other Poems. This work received little attention until President Theodore Roosevelt wrote a magazine article praising it and Robinson. Roosevelt also offered Robinson a sinecure in a U.S. Customs House, a job he held